The process of being served with legal papers is closely linked to things like being the defendant in a lawsuit or having a partner divorce you, so it is no surprise that most people view it negatively. It is definitely tempting to try to avoid being served for as long as possible, but this can actually be bad for you in the long run.
The Process Serving Procedure
Before getting into all the details of what happens if you try to avoid being served, you may want to learn more about how the serving process works. Process serving is the legal procedure by which a person is officially notified of legal action against them. The papers have to be delivered by a qualified process server who is bound to follow certain rules and regulations. A server will generally start by trying to get in touch with you and schedule a time to meet up and receive the documents. If that does not work, they will then try to meet you at your place of work or your residence. The server is then required to confirm your identity and give you the papers.
What Happens If You Avoid the Process Server
It is important to realize that just avoiding the server indefinitely is not a good way of dealing with the issue. Process servers are not the only way for the court to serve you notice about a lawsuit or summons to appear in court. Depending on where you live, the plaintiff can go to the court and ask for alternative ways of serving you. They may then have the option of sub-serving the papers to any adults who live in your home, work with you, or are in charge of your mailing address. There is also the possibility of them being allowed to drop off the papers at your residence or workplace, send the papers to your last known address through the mail, or even post a notice in the local newspaper.
The Consequences of Avoiding Being Served
You do not get any official legal punishment for avoiding a process server, but this does not mean you avoid all consequences while getting to delay things for the other party in the case. The problem with not letting a server give you the documents is that you may not get them otherwise. If someone in your work takes the papers and does not give them to you, or if the papers are blown off your doorstep, you might end up being served without even realizing it happens to you. In the worst case scenario, this can lead to you missing your court date entirely.
The Legal Outcome You Can Expect If You Avoid Being Served
Many people wonder if avoiding being served will have any outcome on the case that they are being served for. This depends on the type of legal matter being discussed. Delaying the legal process by avoiding the process server for so long that they have to find another method to serve the notice to you does not change the legal matters of your case, but it can affect the judge’s interpretation of your character. This can be a problem for more subjective things like family matters or “he said, she said” lawsuits. For example, in a custody case, the judge focuses on finding the best solution for the children involved. A person being belligerent or difficult during the serving process may be used as proof they are not fit for custody.
What Happens If You Avoid Being Served Long Enough to Miss the Court Date
It is important to remember that hiding out from a server does not mean everything just goes away. In the end, you still have to show up in court, and you might miss the correct date if the notice was eventually served through a process like being posted in a local newspaper. If the documents were for a court-ordered appearance, you can end up being charged and arrested for contempt of court. However, in most cases, not showing up just means that you do not get to plead your case or present any facts to the judge. Plaintiffs would usually just get the default judgement they asked, and then they may be able to start collecting debts or child support through automatic debt collection methods like garnishing your wages.
The Benefits of Letting Yourself Be Served
As you can see, there are all sorts of downsides to trying to avoid a process server. You will still get served eventually, with or without your assistance, and without a face-to-face serving, you are less likely to ensure you get important information about the time, date, and details of the court summons. When you meet the server and let them do their job, you can prepare properly for your court case and have plenty of time to get a lawyer.
What You Should Do After You Are Served
If you know you are about to be served, it is important to remain calm. Read the documents and talk to an attorney about the case. It is important to be informed about the facts of your situation and the laws in your state. After being served, you can decide if you want to fight the case or not. You may have the option to ask for more time or try to dismiss a complaint if necessary, or you can choose to have your day in court at the original time.
Now that you know all about the reasons to just acknowledge a server instead of avoiding them, it is easy to see that being served does not have to be upsetting and frustrating. The process server is just doing their job and giving you the information you need. This ensures you have time to get the right representation and prepare for any legal matters because the court case will still occur whether you avoid being served or not.
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